The Tolworth Hurdle, Lanzarote Hurdle and the Betfred Classic Chase take centre stage this weekend as part of a televised eight-race feature covering both Kempton and Warwick.
Our news team run the rule over each of Channel 4’s races on an afternoon that’s sure to shape opinion for the big events taking place in the months ahead.
Switched from Sandown to an arguably easier track in Kempton, the Tolworth is a key pointer for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
David Pipe fields The Liquidator, an impressive bumper winner at last year’s Punchestown Festival who’s followed up by going unbeaten in two starts over timber.
One of those victories was in a Supreme trial at Cheltenham, a Grade Two affair, which could be a negative given that only one of the last 10 Tolworth winners had previously won a graded hurdle race.
Irish raider Upzao could spring something of a surprise for Willie Mullins’ yard having only recently adjusted to going over obstacles.
Two wins at Fairyhouse have improved upon a record that stood at 0-4 before the start of this campaign.
Nicky Henderson goes in search of his third renewal win in the past four years with Garde La Victorie, while Martin Keighley’s smart charge Creepy holds an entry for both this and a race at Warwick.
Venetia William’s 10-year-old veteran Dare Me is sure to attract attention in a race of this calibre and he’ll be one to watch out for on this seasonal reappearance having taken a novice chase score last term.
Previous course and distance winner George Nympton recently returned to form at Uttoxeter although could have more to find here, while Granville Island looks well-handicapped as he bids to follow-up last month’s success at Haydock.
Captain Chris should relish this track and trip although 2012’s King George runner-up may be outdone by the progressive Twinlight.
Ruby Walsh re-takes the ride onboard a charge who’s registered six victories in nine attempts over fences with a recent Grade Two score at Cork a sure sign of his pedigree at this level.
AP McCoy and Champion Court represent the other principal danger to the Walsh/Mullins partnership with December’s Peterborough Chase second ahead of Captain Chris worth noting.
Top weight African Gold is yet to spark into life this season but on previous form the talented six-year-old has to be respected.
Softer conditions could suit Sam Twiston Davies’ mount who will have the likes of Ballyculla to contend with.
Still relatively unexposed, the Warren Greatrex-trained chance could re-assert himself over 3m having scored over the distance at Exeter earlier in the winter.
Oscar Fortune makes the step up in trip and looked a smart novice when scoring at Carlisle on his penultimate outing with this a good opportunity to recover from disappointment at Sandown.
Emma Lavelle has been bullish in the build-up to this race about the chances of the hat-trick seeking Junction Fourteen.
The trainer’s 9/2 favourite won over course and distance last time out on Boxing Day but will be up against some smart opponents.
Nicky Henderson’s 6/1 shot River Maigue should appreciate this step up in trip and arguably his best result to-date was last year’s success at this track and in similar conditions.
And with nine of the last 12 winners going off at odds of 10/1 or shorter it’s probably wise to side with those at the top of the market, with the emerging If In Doubt another to look out for.
Rathvinden bids to remain unbeaten under Rules and given his past dominance over 2m there’s plenty to suggest he’ll last this extended trip.
Kilala Quay’s recent Winter Novices’ Hurdle victory puts him in the spotlight, while mudlark Deputy Dan and surprise Bristol Novices’ Hurdle runner-up Masters Hill could also feature in what’s a very open renewal.
Relax recovered from a trio of disappointing outings to register a fifth chase success last time out at Ffos Las.
And despite that victory, Venetia Williams saddles a charge who’s handily weighted to follow-up that success.
Good Order steps up in class for trainer Tom George and will go in search of a third consecutive win, while Nadiya De La Vega is given a chance over 3m in the hands of champion jockey AP McCoy.
Vesper Bell understandably ticks the right boxes for Willie Mullins given that seven of the last 10 winners of this event have been Irish-bred.
The 5/1 hopeful proved at the back end of last season that he’s got plenty of stamina although proven stayers such as Carruthers and Southern National winner Boyfromnowhere are likely to challenge.
Devon Marathon victor Major Malarkey is an interesting outsider at 16/1 but these conditions will be a worry.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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